Background: Neuromuscular pathologies must be considered when caring for patients with persistent or progressive respiratory failure. Pertinent disease states may involve skeletal muscles of respiration or associated neurologic structures including motor neurons, peripheral neurons and the neuromuscular junction. Diagnosis may require pulmonary function testing, neurophysiologic studies, imaging, and/or muscle biopsy.
Case presentation: A 68-year-old male was transferred to our intensive care unit (ICU) for management of ventilator dependent respiratory failure. Upon further historical review, he described gradually worsening gait instability and muscle weakness, which was previously attributed to vascular Parkinsonism in the setting of known cerebrovascular disease. Upon arrival to our hospital, he was found to have elevated muscle specific enzymes, prompting evaluation for neuromuscular causes of respiratory failure. He was also found to have elevated HMG-CoA Reductase (HMGCR) antibodies. Ultimately, a right quadriceps muscle biopsy was performed and electron microscopy identified nemaline bodies within skeletal myofibers. Given the clinical course and other histopathologic findings, he was diagnosed with Sporadic late-onset nemaline myopathy (SLONM).
Conclusion: The diagnosis of neuromuscular disease in patients with ventilator dependent respiratory failure is challenging. A detailed history of a patient's clinical course prior to hospitalization is key and may raise suspicion for underlying neuromuscular pathology. Further evaluation in non-critically ill patients may include pulmonary function, electromyography and confirmatory muscle biopsy. Sporadic late onset nemaline myopathy remains a rare disease entity which rarely presents with respiratory failure and lacks effective treatment.
Kirupaharan, P.; Kramer, Daniel; Gandler, Alan; Kenyon, Lawrence C.; and Summer, Ross, "68-year old man with progressive weakness and ventilator dependent respiratory failure: a case report of sporadic late onset nemaline myopathy" (2022). Department of Pathology, Anatomy, and Cell Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 353.
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